João de Castro

Dom João de Castro (27 February 1500 – 6 June 1548) was a Portuguese nobleman, scientist, writer, and the fourth viceroy of Portuguese India. He was called Castro Forte ("Stronghold" or "Strong Castle") by the poet Luís de Camões. De Castro was the second son of Álvaro de Castro, the civil governor of Lisbon. His wife was Leonor de Coutinho.[1][2]

João de Castro
Painel de D. João de Castro, Patrono do IPE, exposto na Sala D. João de Castro.png
Governor and Viceroy of Portuguese India
In office
MonarchJohn III of Portugal
Preceded byMartim Afonso de Sousa
Succeeded byGarcia de Sá
Personal details
Born27 February 1500 (1500-02-27)
Lisbon, Kingdom of Portugal
Died6 June 1548 (1548-06-07) (aged 48)
Goa, Portuguese India
Military service
AllegiancePortuguese Empire
Battles/warsOttoman-Portuguese conflicts

Early lifeEdit

As the younger son of Álvaro de Castro, João was destined for the church. He studied mathematics under Pedro Nunes, along with Luis, Duke of Beja, son of King Manuel I of Portugal, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. At eighteen, he went to Tangier for several years, where he was knighted by Dom Duarte de Menezes, the governor.[3]

Voyages to India and the expedition to EgyptEdit

In 1535 de Castro accompanied Dom Luis to the siege of Tunis, where he refused knighthood and rewards from Emperor Charles V. When de Castro returned to Lisbon, the king awarded him the commendation of São Paulo de Salvaterra in the Order of Christ in 1538.[3]

Soon after, de Castro left for India with his uncle Garcia de Noronha, and participated in the relief of Diu upon his arrival at Goa. In 1540 he served on an expedition to Suez under Estêvão da Gama (the son of Vasco da Gama and then viceroy of Portuguese India), who knighted his son, Álvaro de Castro in recognition of D. João.[3] After Noronha's death, da Gama succeeded him, and de Castro joined da Gama on an expedition to the Red Sea. Da Gama departed on December 31, 1540, with 12 large galleons (one of which was captained by de Castro) and carracks, and 60 galleys.

De Castro kept a detailed journal of the voyage with maps, calculations, pictures, and detailed notes of the coasts of the Arabian Peninsula and regions that are known as Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt today. He traveled to Suez and other ports on the shores of the Sinai Peninsula, all included in the Roteiro do Mar Roxo.

Unlike other viceroys, Castro was interested in Indian culture and religion. He collaborated with the humanist André de Resende to write a book on Indian art. His estate of Penha Verde, in Sintra, contains the two famous black stones of Cambay, retrieved by de Castro and his son.

Later lifeEdit

Returning to Portugal, de Castro was named commander of a fleet in 1543 to clear Atlantic Europe of pirates. In 1545 he was sent to India with six ships to replace governor Martim Afonso de Sousa. Seconded by his sons (one of whom, Fernão, was killed) and by João Mascarenhas, de Castro overthrew Mahmud, King of Gujarat, and defeated the army of the Adil Khan. He also captured Bharuch, subjugated Malacca, and traveled in António Moniz's passage into Ceylon. In 1547, he was appointed to be viceroy by King João III of Portugal due to his victory at the second siege of Diu.[3]

After the victory of his Armada in the relief of Diu, he asked the king to not prolong his term of office beyond the ordinary three years and to allow him to return to the Sintra Mountains in Portugal. After his victory over Mahmud and the Adil Khan, de Castro rebuilt Diu with the money received from the citizens of Goa. He did not live long enough to fulfill this goal, and died in the arms of his friend, Saint Francis Xavier, on 6 June 1548.[3]

He was buried at Goa before his remains were exhumed and transported to Portugal to be reinterred in the convent of Benfica.

The terrestrial magnetism in the Roteiro from Lisbon to Goa: the experiences of João de CastroEdit

The ancient Greeks had discovered that a dark metallic stone could attract or repel objects of iron. During the voyage, the navigators could not find a ship at sea by longitude because determining this required a clock on board to indicate the exact time at the reference median, and the astronomical determination of longitude gave unacceptable errors. On the trip to India, de Castro carried out a series of experiments that succeeded in detecting the phenomenon[which?] with the magnetic needle on board. When de Castro attempted to determine the latitude of Mozambique on 5 August 1538, he noted the deviation of the needle 128 years before Guillaume Dennis (1666) of Nieppe, who is normally credited with this discovery. He observed a magnetic phenomenon on 22 December 1538 near Baçaim, which was confirmed four centuries later. De Castro refuted the theory that the variation of magnetic declination is formed by geographic meridians.[4]

De Castro's recorded values of magnetic declination in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans in the sixteenth century were useful for the study of terrestrial magnetism. He made 43 observations of magnetic declination through measurements of geomagnetic declination over the entire route around Africa. The instrument he used was the Bussola de Variacão, which was developed by Felipe Guillén a decade earlier in Seville. He discovered spatial variations of declination in the Bay of Bombay (near Baçaim), which he attributed to the disturbing effects of underwater rock masses.[citation needed] In the 1890s, G. Hellman, quoted by Chapman and Bartels (1940), considered de Castro to be the most important representative of scientific maritime investigations of the time, and the method he tested was universally introduced on ships and used until the end of the sixteenth century.[5]


  1. ^ Freire de Andrade, Jacinto, 1597-1657: The life of Dom John de Castro, the fourth vice-roy of India wherein are seen the Portuguese's voyages to the East-Indies, their discoveries and conquests there, the form of government, commerce, and discipline of warr in the east, and the topography of all India and China : containing also a particular relation of the most famous siege of Dio, with a map to illustrate it / by Jacinto Freire de Andrada, written in Portuguese ; and by Sr Peter Wyche, Kt., translated into English. — Vida de Dom João de Castro, quarto viso-rey da India. English, 1663
  2. ^ David Thomas und John Chesworth: Asia, Africa and South America , in Christian-Muslim Relations. A Bibliographical History. Volume 7 Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and South America (1500-1600)
  3. ^ a b c d e Chisholm 1911.
  4. ^ "The road to the magnetic north pole".
  5. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-26. Retrieved 2011-08-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)


Preceded by
Martim Afonso de Sousa
(1542 – 1545)
Governor and Viceroy of Portuguese India
João de Castro

(1545 - 6 June, 1549)
Succeeded by
Garcia de Sá
(June, 1548 – 13 June 1549)